Thursday, April 23, 2009

New Roofs and Beer!

Today our roofers arrived on site to begin roofing work on the garden house on the Amstel property and tomorrow they will roof the Dutch House garden shed. About a week and a half ago, some carpentry work was completed to replace some fascia boards that had rotted on both outbuildings. An access hatch was also cut in the ceiling of the Amstel Garden House to allow a way into the surprisingly roomy attic. The hatch was cut through the ceiling boards from above and the saw kerfs are directly above the ceiling beams so from below you can't tell there is a hatch there! It's great! Here's a pic of the attic:
The roofers spent pretty much the whole day on the garden house. The rear roof was already removed, and they made short work of removing the front roof. All the shingle lath was left in place.

We asked them to hand nail all the cedar shingles so the process may have moved more slowly than a modern job. They installed cedar shingle referred to as '24" Royals'. They are 2 feet in length. Both sides are sawn which we think matches the appearance of 18th century shingles better than modern shakes - which have a primitive split look to them. (While its true that shingles were hand-split in the 18th century, their surfaces were also smoothed or "dressed" with a drawknife. So they looked more like today's shingles than shakes.)

The roofing crew is just finishing up for the day as I write this. They need to do a bit or work around the chimney in the morning then they will move on to the Dutch House. The dumpster did not arrive today so the old roofing debris will remain on site overnight so we'll be closing the garden to visitors this evening.

On a related of our guides, Martha, told me a great story today that she heard from a descendant of Mrs. T. Coleman du Pont. Mrs. du Pont was instrumental in building the Amstel garden house back in the 1930s. It was made out of salvaged materials - bricks from an old house on the Atlas Powder Company property and timbers from the Pocopson Bridge (in PA I think)- to make it look old. So when a new wood roof was installed, the nice new shingles just didn't fit with the look Mrs. du Pont was after. Someone apparently advised her that if she poured beer all over the shingles it would artificially age them. So she and her son came to the Amstel House one morning and proceeded to pour beer all over the roof. In the process, Mrs. du Pont got pretty well drenched by the brew. She arrived home around noon - probably smelling like a brewery - to find a group of guests waiting for her that she had forgotten that she invited to lunch. Imagine their surprise!

So...While I don't intend to pour beer all over the new roof - since tomorrow is Friday - I think I may just have to crack a cold one and raise a toast to Mrs. du Pont and her dedication to getting everything just right!


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